One of the most important—and simple—things a deer steward can do before the hunting season begins is to conduct a trail camera survey on their property. The information gathered from these surveys is crucial in improving the health of the deer as well as the habitat that they live in.
Note: I am not a wildlife biologist. For specifics and questions for your particular property, contact your state's wildlife biologist to get their opinion and expertise.
Why is a trail camera survey important?
One of the things that a properly performed trail camera survey will tell you is how many acres you have per deer (deer density). This is important because it will tell you if your habitat can sustain the current population of deer (carrying capacity).
The ideal deer density is different for every location, but is generally 20-30 acres per deer. If you have high deer density, you may want to adjust your harvest accordingly. If you have low deer density, it is possible you may need to increase the amount of forage on your property.
Another important metric derived from a trail camera survey is the "buck-to-doe" ratio. Ideally, this ratio should be 1:1, does-to-bucks. On many properties in the US, it is 2:1 does-to-bucks, and sometimes 3:1. In some instances, you may want to perform an enhanced doe harvest in order to get the ratio closer to 1:1.
When should one perform a trail camera survey?
A summer trail camera survey should be conducted in late August, early September.
The reason you should not perform these at any other time is that you have a much better chance of capturing all the fawns in your area, giving you more accurate results. Any earlier and there is a chance that the fawns are still staying in once place, and are not travelling with their mother. Any later and it is hunting season or close to it.
What are the steps to conducting a trail camera survey?
There are few simple steps that must be taken to maximize success.